Der Relativsatz (Relative Clause)

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What are Relative Clauses? (Relativsätze)

Relative clauses (Relativsätze) give extra information without making you start a new sentence. 

They are subordinate clauses (verb at the end!) and have a relative pronoun at the beginning. They are separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Example: „Das ist der Mann, der einen Ferrari hat.“

Relative Clauses with „der”, „die”, „das”, „welche”

If we want to give additional information about a person or a thing, we use the relative pronouns „der“, „die“, „das“, or „welche“.

They have to be declined. But how?!?!?


  • „Das ist der Mann, der (welcher) einen Ferrari hat.“

Which noun from the main clause does the Relativsatz describe?

Answer: „der Mann“

What gender and number does that noun („der Mann“) have?

Answer: masculine, singular

What case does the relative pronoun have IN THE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE?

Answer: nominative

Relative Pronoun = masculine + singular + nominative ⇒ „der“

Recommendation: Relative Pronoun

You can read about the easiest way to form and decline relative pronouns and the situations in which you use the different relative pronouns in the lesson Relativpronomen.

Relative Pronouns with Prepositions

If there is a preposition before the to-be-replaced noun in the Relativsatz, the same preposition must come before the relative pronoun. It doesn't matter if there was a preposition before the noun in the main clause or not.

  • „Da kommt der Bus. Wir warten schon so lange auf den Bus.“
  • „Da kommt der Bus, auf den wir schon so lange warten.“
  • „Dort ist die Schule. Ich bin früher in diese Schule gegangen.“
  • „Dort ist die Schulein die ich früher gegangen bin.“

Relativsatz with „wo“

If the Relativsatz describes a place, we often use the relative pronoun „wo“ at the beginning:

  • „Gegen wir in das neue Restaurant? Dort gibt es Sushi!“
  • „Gehen wir in das neue Restaurant, in dem es Sushi gibt?
  • „Gehen wir in das neue Restaurant, wo es Sushi gibt?“

The „wo“ replaces the Relative Pronoun + Preposition.

Interesting Fact:

In colloquial language, the „wo“ version is used almost exclusively.

Relativsatz with „was“

A Relativsatz can also give additional information about entire sentences, Superlatives, and Indefinite Pronouns.

When it is a neuter superlative, something non-specified („etwas“, „alles“, „nichts“ …), or an entire sentence, we use „was“.


Neuter Superlative:

  • „Das ist das Beste, was ich jemals gemacht habe.“

Indefinite Pronoun:

  • „Der Mann sagt nichts, was von Bedeutung ist.“ (nominative)
  • „Ich sehe etwas, was du nicht siehst.“ (accusative)

Full Sentence:

  • Er spielt in der Wohnung Schlagzeug, was die Nachbarn stört.“

In this case, it isn't possible to include a preposition. However, most of the time the Relativsatz that relates to an entire sentence is constructed with wo(r)+ preposition.

  • „Er hat mir geholfen, wofür ich ihm sehr dankbar bin.“

In informal speech, we would always just say:

  • „Er hat mir geholfen. Dafür bin ich ihm sehr dankbar.“

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  • Relative clauses give more information without having to start a new sentence.
  • Relative clauses usually describe a noun and come directly after it.
  • They can also describe an entire sentence, though this doesn't occur too often in spoken German.
  • In addition to relative pronouns, there are also the versions „wo“, „was“ and „wo(r)“ + Preposition

Related Topics:

For Relativsätze (Relative Clauses) you need Relativpronomen (Relative Pronouns)

Relativsätze (Relative Clauses) belong to the  Nebensätzen (Subordinate clauses). Other subordinate clauses are:

Subordinate Clauses include:

More information on Sentence Structure and Word order: Satzbau

You can find an overview of all topics under German Grammar. 

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